Want to raise a critical thinker? Try telling stories.

Engaging kids with storytelling skills has real brain benefits.

Like most elementary and middle school-age children, Jennifer Aycock’s four kids, ages six to 13, love a good story. And though reading is a cherished family activity, the Aycock family doesn’t always rely on books.

“When we’re telling stories out loud, you can see the kids engage differently,” says Aycock, a longtime teacher who incorporates storytelling in her classroom. “They listen more intently, and it seems to really spark their imagination.”

Scientific research on how kids’ brains respond to storytelling is relatively new, says Katie Knutson, board chair of the National Storytelling Network and a professional storyteller. “[But] it’s clear that there are significant cognitive and academic benefits to both story listening and storytelling.”

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